Tree Tidings Archives


During a recent vacation to Arizona, my family and I had an opportunity to pay our respects to my late grandmother, Talma Scorza.  +RIP+  It is hard to believe that it has almost been 10 years since she passed away!  We sure do miss her dearly!

Talma Scorza (1925-2009)



After our Arizona visit, a family member presented to me one of the few handwritten letters that we have from my grandmother.  Consequently, the letter composed about 25 years ago, which I transcribed below, is truly precious.  Moreover, it is a message of hope! Not infrequently, we uncover horrible things (whatever they may be) when we dig deeper in our quest to learn more about our ancestors and relatives. Unfortunately, this is a part of the human condition. The story, which you are about to read is no exception. Thankfully, though, in this case, hope had the final say!

Below is a transcript of the letter in my late grandmother's own words. The letter's religious and hopeful message reflects her deeply-held beliefs. 


One of God's Many Daily Miracles

by Grandma Talma Scorza

[Holmes County, Florida]


Early one summer morning when I was ten years old, my cousins, siblings and I were playing outside while Mother and Aunt Cora prepared breakfast. Aunt Cora being a young widow with five children, our family shared with them what God had allowed us to enjoy- Our “play” outside included jumping from the “hay loft” (attic of storage area that covered the wagon and farm tools) to the hard ground – height of 8 or 10 feet. In a 10 year old mind seemed more like 12 ft. Wow, did our bodies take a “jarring,” pounding, shaking as our feet hit the ground, also probably our brains. By the time we went in for breakfast of “hoe-cakes,” “griddle cakes,” known as pancakes today, I had developed a terrific headache. I was concerned with getting my portion (selfish, I know, but with nine hungry children), I became too sick to eat and left the table. I never made it to where I was going before passing out.

My family found me a few moments later, and my brother was sent running to get neighbor, Mrs. Paul, to come and pray with them, while someone else went for [the] country doctor (Dr. Smith). The following week is blank for me, so I only know what was reported to me by family. As my fever soared to 107, I was given quinine (bitter medicine) as [the] doctor ordered. (In my mind's eye, I can still see all those little empty bottles). They also used mustard plasters on my chest and back and any other home remedies suggested. All the while a 24 hour a day vigil was held at my beside, with prayers being offered on my behalf. 

So, for me without answered prayer, I wouldn't be here (63 years later) writing this article for a wonderful grandson, Stephen. Everyday and every hour is always a miracle for me. Even though many relatives and neighbors had been there during the week of vigil, it was Mrs. Paul (my Sunday School teacher) sitting at the foot of the bed when I woke up after being in a coma for a week. It was a special moment to see her and ask for a big doll which I didn't even own. It was the middle of [the] night so I drifted back to sleep quickly, but awakened [the] next morning as if only one night had passed. I'm very thankful for answered prayer and the many blessings God has allowed me to enjoy over the years. As a result of “my miracle at ten,” I now enjoy the miracle of a wonderful Christian family, including my husband, two children (four by marriage), seven grandchildren (nine by marriage), and four great-grandchildren.  So let's all “Praise God from whom all Blessings Flow.” – Amen.









July 21, 1909 was not a dull news day. The Wright Brothers had made another milestone in aviation history.1 The U.S. Congress acted on President Taft’s call for changes to U.S. tariff policy.2 Devastating winds and heavy rain associated with a strong hurricane along the Gulf of Mexico made landfall at Galveston, Texas, killing ten people and causing extensive property damage.3 For residents of Lorain County, though, it had been, relatively-speaking, a calm day; it was warm, cloudy and slightly breezy with just a trace of rain reported.4 The Szantay Family of the city of Lorain, Ohio, on the other hand, could not have known that a “storm” of a different kind would drastically change their family’s life overnight.


Sandor “Alexander” Szantay was a grocer and a butcher.5 Born in Hungary, northeast of Budapest, Alexander had achieved the American dream. His sudden death at 44 years of age altered that dream for his wife and children. The apex of my research adventure into his life was determining Alexander’s cause of death. Here’s how this serendipitous discovery unfolded.

I learned about my connection with Alexander through an unexpected DNA match. We are distantly connected (going back several centuries) via a DNA test that measured exclusively my paternal line via a Y-DNA test.6 In the genealogical community, I am known for my passion for and specialization in Prussian-German Genealogy. My Wendt ancestors lived in what was the Kingdom of Prussia in a region which is now northeast Germany. It was with this particular ancestral background in mind that I submitted a saliva swab sample to Family Tree DNA.


How is it that a DNA test links me with a Hungarian man, but I do not have more recent Hungarian roots? It is important to distinguish between autosomal DNA tests and Y-DNA tests. Autosomal DNA tests approximate a given person’s ethnic make-up from both the paternal and maternal side, and the period of time that it covers goes back about only four or five generations. Y-DNA tests, on the other hand, trace only the paternal line-with an associated surname-and for a much longer period of time.

In my case, a paternal-focused, Y-DNA test indicated that my line originated out of northern Eurasia and Siberia, where inhabitants were Uralic speakers. The Hungarian language is a part of the Uralic language family. My paternal line, consequently, predates my Prussian-German roots and my Wendt surname. It was not until centuries later that some of the descendants from this paternal line migrated west into Hungary and into Prussia.7

A quick online search indicated that Alexander lived and is buried less than a 30 minute-drive from my house. The serendipity continued! He or I could have ended up in different parts of Ohio — or anywhere in the world. It is purely coincidental that our very distant DNA connection and our common physical association with Lorain County aligned together as it did.


After discovering Alexander’s proximity to my home, I visited his burial place. His gravestone is unique in that it lists (in Hungarian, of course), his original name, date of birth, and date of death; moreover, it also lists his exact village and county of origin in Hungary.8 Talk about hitting the genealogical jackpot!

Gravestone of Sandor “Alexander” Szantay

This story, however, does not culminate with the rich cemetery information. Further online research led to his death certificate, which indicated that he died due to “violence while wrestling,” having fractured the C6 cervical vertebra of the spine (see image  with enlarged “cause of death” section).9 His death certificate does not provide any additional clues about  the exact circumstances.

Death certificate of Sandor “Alexander” Szantay

However, an inscription next to Alexander’s gravestone exemplifies poignantly the extent to which the family mourned over his death.10 Translated, it reads: “Foreign land closed my grave by accident hurting my dearests who cry on my death.”

Inscription that expresses the family's loss!

My distant connection with Alexander Szantay is remarkable for many reasons. The surprise connection to him opened an intriguing window into my Pre-Prussian origins on my paternal line. The Y-DNA connection is thrilling in and of itself. Adding the unexpected geographic commonality of Lorain County, the genealogically-rich gravestone and the intriguing cause of death on the death certificate offer an extraordinarily rich and riveting Ohio ancestral connection.

  1. “Wright Flights Near to Record,” The Plain Dealer, 22 July 1909, p. 8; image copy, ( : accessed 15 December 2018).
  2. “The President to the Rescue,” The Plain Dealer, 22 July 1909, p. 4; image copy, ( : accessed 15 December 2018).
  3. “Ten Lives Lost as Wall Saves City,” The Plain Dealer, 22 July 1909, p. 4; image copy, ( : accessed 15 December 2018).
  4. “The Daily Weather,” The Plain Dealer, 22 July 1909, p. 2; image copy, GenealogyBank. com ( : accessed 15 December 2018).
  5. Lorain County, Ohio, death certificate no. 36332, 258, “Alex Szantay,” 21 July 1909; image, State of Ohio Bureau of Vital Statistics Certificate of Death ( : accessed 1 December 2018).
  6. Family Tree DNA. “Y-DNA Ancestral Origins.” Database. Family Tree DNA. : 2018.
  7. Family Tree DNA. “Y-DNA Ancestral Origins.” Database. Family Tree DNA. : 2018.
  8. Elmwood Cemetery (Lorain, Lorain County, Ohio), Sandor Szantay marker, center section; personally read, 2018.
  9. Lorain County, Ohio, death certificate no. 36332, 258, “Alex Szantay,” 21 July 1921; image, State of Ohio Bureau of Vital Statistics Certificate of Death ( : accessed 1 December 2018).
  10. Elmwood Cemetery (Lorain, Lorain County, Ohio), Szantay marker, center section; personally read, 2018.

This article also appeared in the Summer 2019 publication of the Ohio Genealogy News.

Stephen Wendt holds a Master in Library and Information Science from Kent State University. He is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG). He is also a member of the Ohio Genealogical Society and the Ohio Chapter of PAL-AM. He is the founder of Tree Tidings Genealogy. Many of his clients have Prussian-German roots. Stephen lectures regularly on Prussian Genealogy.

To make a genealogical request, fill out as much information as you know here!

Your Family Photographs. Scanning Them. Made Easier.

My late grandmother. 1940s.

Over the Easter holiday, I had a chance to digitize some family photographs using my portable scanner. Known as “Flip Pal,” this battery-operated, portable scanner has been all over the place! I have used it countless times at various family members' houses in Ohio, out West and even at a remote village in South America!

The Flip Pal mobile scanner


  1. It's portable
  2. It's light-weight and small (2.5 lbs and dimensions: 12.5 × 9.25 × 2.25 in)
  3. Its scanning features are incredible!
    • Scan Originals
    • Flip and Scan
    • Large Originals
  4. It's battery-operated (4 AA batteries) and utilizes an SD card
  5. It's ideal for 4 x 6 photos or smaller

One unmistakable benefit of this device over conventional flatbed scanners is that you can flip the scanner over, allowing you to scan precious-and perhaps fragile-photographs directly from a photo album. In other words, you don't need to take a photograph out of an album in order to scan it like you likely would need to do if you were using a conventional flatbed scanner.

The versatility of scanning a photograph directly from a photo album with the “Flip and Scan” option, scanning loose photographs with the “Scan Originals” option, or scanning using the “Large Originals” option make for an exceptionally innovative, convenient and easy-to-use device. Take it wherever you need it! In my opinion, it is worth the amount I paid for it. As of this writing, the Flip Pal scanner costs around $180. One other handy tip to consider is that it's best to use rechargeable AA batteries. Even if you can get through a good stack of photographs before it's necessary to change the batteries, it's best to use rechargeable batteries. In the long run, you'll save money.

For more information about the Flip Pal scanner, follow this link:

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4 Wendt Kids (Circa 1923)
The four Wendt children before tragedy hit. Circa 1923. My grandfather, Glenn C. Wendt, is the younger boy on the left.


100th Birthday Anniversary!

Today marks the 100th Anniversary of the birth of my late grandfather, Glenn C. Wendt, who was born in Deuel County, Nebraska, on December 13, 1918. Glenn’s life symbolizes a man who was hard-working, gentle, funny, but very private, especially about his upbringing.

Loree 1
My Wendt grandparents. 1990s.

It was only after his death-many years ago-that I learned more about the tragedy that befell his family. As a child at around five years of age, his life had changed overnight (the details are forthcoming). This is THE family story, which transformed what had been an interest in genealogy into a passionate (and later a professional) journey! As I traced my Wendt line further, there was no turning back, especially since I had discovered my Prussian roots!

Family Lore and the Facts

When I was growing up, the family lore, which had been passed down over the generations, was that my grandfather’s family was split up due to the head injury which his father, my great-grandfather, Hugo Wendt, had suffered in a train accident. In other words, the family narrative unequivocally and simply assigned a cause and effect scenario in which Hugo’s head injury suffered because of the train accident was the basis for splitting up the family. Regardless of this family narrative, the end result was that the girls left with their mother, my great-grandmother, Elsie Wendt, for California and the boys remained with their father in Nebraska.

As horrible as these events certainly were, however, there were other pieces to the family puzzle which were not handed down. It took countless hours of personal research via primarily online historical newspaper research to discover that the train accident had actually taken place long before in 1900, while the family split up was in 1923. In between this period which had spanned almost a quarter of a century, Hugo Wendt had finished law school, made an unsuccessful run for Congress, settled down and got married and owned a dry goods store. All the while, he wrote thought-provoking articles in the various major Nebraska newspapers on what were controversial issues of the day, such as his view that Prohibition of alcohol was immoral. Consequently, one would think that given all of these extraordinary accomplishments that the earlier train accident would not have played a direct role in breaking up the Wendt Family.

Digging Deeper!

Despite all of the new, amazing discoveries that I had uncovered-that living relatives had never even known about (for many of them these details are about their own grandfather)-they still do not answer why the family split apart. It is said that Hugo was a violent man and that my great-grandmother gave a baby up for adoption, who was conceived by a railroad worker (right before she left with the girls to go to California). My suspicion is that perhaps a re-injury to my great-grandfather’s head (a metal plate, according to his obituary, had been implanted following the train accident) could have been decisive. By then he was also in his 50s. Also, another factor to take into consideration is that there was a minor economic recession that took place around this time-frame, which could have facilitated the family’s break-up or at least had exacerbated living conditions for the family (by 1923 Hugo was no longer running his dry goods store).

Obviously, there are more avenues worth pursuing. Time-permitting, between client projects, I hope to pay a visit to a specific public library in Deuel County in Nebraska. It has limited hours, but it has the entire collection of the local town newspaper on CD that I would like to investigate. The Deuel County Historical Society recently disbanded, unfortunately. Given that reality and other unhelpful county agencies, I am resolved to fill in more of the gaps that persist. So, again, time-permitting, I will visit the library and other institutions while I am there. Given the fact that Hugo published widely in the major Nebraska papers, I am cautiously optimistic that I will find out some of the answers that I am looking for in the local newspaper.

A Wonderful Role Model

Glenn Curtis Wendt - US Army Officer picture
Glenn C. Wendt. 1942.

So, this family tragedy shaped my late grandfather’s life. He suffered with this pain associated with this family loss for his entire life. While he could have adopted false coping mechanisms or addictions in an effort to mask the pain, he was absolutely courageous in this regard! He did his duty, having served honorably in World War II as a US Army Officer. He was a devoted husband and father. He faithfully provided for his family by working the graveyard shift as a linotype operator for a few newspapers. He was an excellent grandfather. I am grateful to him, my late grandmother and other loving family members (both living and deceased) for their example and for all of the wonderful family memories that we are able to share together at family parties and other events over the years!


[Due to requests for additional updates from my genealogy friends, I am writing a brief blog here concerning a tragic family story that I had shared about twice on Facebook the other day. It was about a rejected relative's background and my subsequent “visit” with her over the telephone. In order to protect her anonymity, I will neither mention her name nor include a picture].

Last week, I had the opportunity to finally reach out to a first cousin once-removed. The family had long suspected that she was probably related to us (more details on that shortly). She is 80 years old now. Her biological father never wanted to acknowledge her existence. He tried to avoid paying child support. His selfishness and complete disregard for his daughter-and making sure that no one in the family had contact with her for years-definitely made her feel completely REJECTED. What's more is that she was, more or less, neglected on the maternal side as well. Just horrible what happened to her! My focus in reaching out to her was out of love and concern and listening-and not so much the genealogical stuff (which is important, but is secondary to her psychological and spiritual healing). 

At any rate, I called her and left a message on her answering machine. Given her busy schedule, she finally had the time to call me back. We spoke briefly. I had mentioned to her that I was sorry that she was rejected by her father and was not allowed to meet members of the family on the paternal side. She mentioned that, although she had missed out on all of the family connections and events over the years, that she has lived a full life with her husband, children and grandchildren. What an amazing woman!

The feedback that I received was that her biological father sought to end child support payments, and he thought he would be successful by taking a blood test. It, according to her, proved positive that he was her father. A DNA connection on Ancestry gives us no doubt that she is related to us. She has no idea what her paternal grandparents even look like. So, I told her that I would email some pictures and send a video of her Grandma whom she never knew, but could have met (if the biological father had not separated her from the rest of the family). She was delighted to hear that I would be sending some family pictures her way!

Thanks, again, for all of the previous expressions of concern, thoughts and your prayers. She indicated that she would like to reconnect again in January. If I have further updates, I will be happy to pass them along!



How Can You Find Your Prussian Village?

Damme church
Village church in Damme (Brandenburg, Germany) – Courtesy of


There is nothing more rewarding than to be able to answer the perennial questions that many of us ask ourselves: Where did our ancestors come from?  Who are we?  For many of us with Prussian roots, the spark for entertaining such questions often begins with looking at records.

Many years ago, I had seen “Prussia” listed as the country of origin for some of my ancestors on the U.S. Federal Census.  From that moment on, I wanted to learn more about my Prussian roots, especially about my SECOND Great-Grandfather, Christian Wendt (see Fig. 1 below).1  Who was this man?  What were my Wendt Family ancestors like?  What was the homeland in Prussia like?

Christian Wendt.jpg
Fig. 1   My Prussian SECOND Great-Grandfather, Christian Wendt

Christian Wendt first appeared on the 1850 U.S. Census with his parents, Martin and Maria Wendt, and his sisters.  It was definitely exciting to learn a little more about him and his family while they resided in Niagara County, New York.2  However, I wanted to know when they arrived to the United States and where they came from in Prussia (now Germany).  On the 1900 U.S. Census, it indicated that they had emigrated to the U.S. in 1846.3  This detail was a good starting point, but I was just at the beginning of my personal Prussian search.  I needed more answers and proof.

A breakthrough occurred after spending what seemed like an eternity of searching for my Wendt ancestors on a passenger arrival list.  I found the record on the popular Ancestry database under “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957” (see Fig. 2 below). 

wendt-Passenger List
Fig. 2    New York Passenger List –  15 June 1846

The passenger list indicated the following information, which I knew corresponded nicely with this immigrant Wendt Family.  I had found out that:

  • Christian Wendt and his family had arrived in New York on the 15th of June 1846
  • Their port of departure was Hamburg
  • The ship that they traveled on was the Howard

This passenger arrival record was like a dream come true!  I was now able to trace my Wendt Family to their point of departure in Hamburg.  Since the record did not indicate any other geographical details, including the name of the Prussian village, my search was far from over.

The next step was to look for emigration records.  I did not have to search far!  It just so happened that I had found the village information and more that I was looking for on Ancestry as well under the “Brandenburg, Prussia Emigration Records” (see Fig. 3 below).5  

Christian Friedrich Wilhelm Wendt_1846 Passenger Information_Damme Prenzlau
Fig. 3   Transcript of Hamburg Emigration Record for Christian Wendt on Ancestry 

This emigration information marked a turning point in my Prussian family research.  I had learned not only the name of the village of Damme, but about the Kreis (county) of Prenzlau as well.  This information proved to be crucial in order to pinpoint exactly where the village was on a gazetteer (a kind of geographical dictionary). 

My search did not end there.  I wanted to verify whether everything on the transcript was factually correct.  I was determined to look for a copy of the record.  I did not have to wait long.  During a time in which the LDS microfilm service was still in effect, I had the opportunity to borrow and view a copy of the record at my local Family History Center.  I took two digital images of the immigration cards on microfiche containing information about my Wendt ancestors (see Fig. 4 and Fig. 5).6  On the first image, there is information concerning the parents, Martin and Maria (in this case, she is listed as Marie-Dorothee), the number of their children and their place of origin.  Also, it lists Martin’s age, his occupation and their travel destination to North America in 1846.  On the second image, there is a list of the names of the children, including Christian, and their dates of birth.

Hamburg Emigration - Wendt
 Fig. 4   Hamburg Emigration Record for the Wendt Family

Hamburg Emigration - Wendt (2).jpeg
Fig. 5   Hamburg Emigration Record for the Wendt Family (Cont'd)

It was a privilege to view a copy of the emigration record.  A thorough review of the emigration record was proof enough that the information had been transcribed correctly.  In my case, I was very fortunate to have been able to trace, online, my Wendt ancestors to their Prussian village of origin.  In reality, though, one's Prussian village of origin is not as easy to find as some might think.  Fortunately, there are other techniques that can be employed.  In the next segment (How Can You Find Your Prussian Village? – Part 2), I will demonstrate how it is possible to find a Prussian village using other records.  


1. Christian Wendt photograph, ca. 1900; digital image 2015, privately held by Stephen Wendt, Cleveland, Ohio, 2015.

2. Ancestry, “1850 United States Federal Census,” database, Ancestry  ( : accessed 1 July 2012), entry for Christian Wendt (b. 1834), Wheatfield, Niagara County, New York, p. 169B, fam. 361; citing “affiliate film number” M432_560.                                                                                               *The Wendt surname was incorrectly transcribed as “West” on  the Ancestry database.

3. Ancestry, “1900 United States Federal Census,” database, Ancestry ( : accessed 1 July 2012), entry for Christian Wendt (b. 1834), Park, Deuel County, Nebraska, dist. 98, p. 2, fam. 33; citing “affiliate film number” T623.

4. “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1857, Roll 62: 1820-1957,” database, Ancestry ( indiv=1&dbid=7488&h=1023032323&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=XPV679&_phstart=successSource : accessed 31 July 2012), entry for C. Wendt age 12, arrived New York, New York, 15 June 1846 aboard the Howard.                                                                                            

5. Potsdam. Auswanderungskartei [Emigration documents], year 1846, Wendt Family; Brandenburgisches Landeshauptarchiv, Potsdam, Germany; FHL International Fiche 6109219, 6109220

6. Potsdam. Auswanderungskartei [Emigration documents], year 1846, Wendt Family.


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What is your family story?

Hugo Wendt, my great-grandfather. Circa  1912.

The Value of Family Stories

At some point in our lives, many of us have experienced a loved one share the same family stories over and over again.  Perhaps we did not fully appreciate them back then, but we cherish them now.  For other folks, perhaps not much oral family history was passed down.  At any rate, each of our respective family stories is a kind of gateway to our ancestral past.  It is not uncommon, later on, for such family stories to spark an interest in genealogy—that of discovering where we came from and who we are.

Genealogy and Oral Family History

One way genealogy enthusiasts and professionals start their family history journey is by pursuing their loved ones’ earlier stories and transforming them into a timeless treasure. Perhaps certain stories were snippets of a rich or of a more complicated family past.  One story, for example, which was passed down in my family for a couple of generations, was that the marriage of my great-grandfather (depicted above) failed because he was injured in a train accident.  With no other information to go on other than that he suffered a horrible head injury in a train accident, the inescapable conclusion had been the following theme: that there was a causal relationship between the earlier train accident and the family break-up.

Validate Through Research

Oftentimes, we are able to ascertain the veracity of an oral family story by performing research.  Perhaps a particular story was entirely factual-or in part-or demonstrably false (or somewhere in between).  In my great-grandfather’ case, our family did not have many of the details.  My family’s forgotten past made it next to impossible to determine ‘where’ I came from relative to this family line.  Interestingly enough, in depth research indicated a likely causal link–at least to some extent.  However, over 20 years had elapsed between the train accident and the family break-up. In between both tragic events, my great-grandfather had been very accomplished in his professional life, which none of my contemporary family members had even known about.  A majority of the missing information was unearthed by performing historical newspaper searches.  Consequently, this tragic family history story has been expanded to include outstanding moments along the way!

Your Family Tradition

The key to starting or continuing genealogy research is to focus on what we know and take it from there.   There are many tools at our disposal in the pursuit of answers.  Whether it is evaluating an oral family history, attempting to take a family line back a generation, searching for DNA details or determining whether we are related to a famous person in history—whatever the reason may be, many of us are curious about where we came from and who we are.  Far from being a dull undertaking, genealogical research helps us to answer burning questions about our family past.  It is this passion for unlocking their family history which constitutes why many genealogy enthusiasts and professionals do genealogy in the first place.

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